6 Things I’ve Got All Wrong About Minimalism

I laughed at minimalists as laziness, but now I’m one of them.

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

Minimalism is underrated. What is it all about young minimalists — primarily straight white males? Have they become minimalists because their career success is too much to bear? Are they young graduates who only start their career? So they’re minimalists set by default? Are they lazy people?

I laughed at the minimalist lifestyle. Living less was a kind of joke to me. It was my dismissal before I embraced a minimalist lifestyle. Now I am one of the minimalists.

There are many misconceptions surrounding minimalism. These are at least what I’ve thought of minimalism before I became a minimalist.

These are the six things that have proven me wrong:

1. Minimalism is for straight white males.

This is absolutely untrue. Most minimalists are predominantly young, straight white males if you look around the online presence of minimalists. But the thing is, you don’t need to see minimalism as successive white male dominance. Isn’t the internet world itself predominantly white?

Look at specific personas in social media, such as youtube and Instagram. A youtube minimalist such as Matt Da’vella, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus are among all the white-male-persona stereotypes.

One became a minimalist from a Uni graduate who paid off his Uni loan by living less. The latter became minimalists because their career success is too much to bear. They fit into the minimalist stereotypes. Their dominance in the Western minimalist world might be overwhelming.

But if you look further beyond the social media and bloggers’/authors’ personas, many other minimalists don’t quite fit into these stereotypes. In fact, their personas are unique. They have a different approach to minimalism.

So let’s look back at where it’s from. Minimalism is the concept that originated in Japan. Hence, we’ve got Japanese minimalist experts such as Marie Kondo, Hideko Yamashita, and my favourite author in minimalism, Fumio Sasaki.

Sasaki’s book ‘Goodbye, things’ is an elegant approach to an insight of minimalism from his original roots, Japan. His minimalist approach with only having three shirts and four pairs of trousers might sound extreme to you.

But things will make sense if you’re in his shoes. You live in a tiny studio in Tokyo, one of the expensive cities in the world. When he realised owning so much stuff was only weighing him down.

Just because they don’t speak English doesn’t mean they’re less charming than English speaking influencers. I tend to look up to the Japanese minimalists. I have a particular interest in Japanese culture — notably, the Japanese philosophy of living in the moment. The minimalism itself is inherently unpretentious and natural.

2. You’re a Minimalist because you’re a young Uni graduate and unemployed. So minimalism is pretty much set by default until you’re not.

It is not entirely true. This is quite misleading. Many minimalists I know, in fact, have career success, and some aren’t even Uni graduates. Though many minimalist YouTubers started when they graduated from university, many others aren’t in this spectrum. Some famous people actually chose the simple life — though not necessarily living with fewer items. Steve Jobs, for instance, chose minimalism. He firmly believed in Simplicity over complexity and beautified it.

Albert Einstein lived a simple lifestyle.

Out of clutter, find Simplicity. From discord, find Harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies Opportunity.

His famous quote speaks it all.

From our modern, contemporary internet world, a minimalist blogger, Colin Wright, is among many inspiring minimalists travelling the world since 2009. The man of many talents self-taught himself by living less and travelling the world. He has lived in Argentina, New Zealand, Thailand, Iceland, India, Romania, Czech Republic, and the Philippines and 60 other countries.

3. Minimalists should only have less than 100 items in their lives.

On Maximizeminimalism website, it argues that minimalism exists on a spectrum. People choose minimalism for different reasons. Some people have accumulated stuff in their lives, and excessive property started weighing in their lives, like Fumio Sasaki. Some others aim for a better quality of life without the bombardment of consumerism and materialism.

There are actually no rules set in stone for how many items you should have or the maximum amounts of things. But there are ultra-minimalists for those who live with only a few items that will make you cringe. Some count every item they own by keeping under 100 total items.

When we were little, our parents always taught us to save our pocket money in a piggy bank. However, we might not realise that saving money in a piggy bank has actually taught us to buy what really matters to you. So whatever your reasons are, does saving always teach us to focus on what really matters?

4. Minimalism is a scam.

No one is scamming you because minimalists are not princes and princesses of Nigeria. They are as real as it gets. They’re even more genuine than any other influencers. They don’t accept payments from any products because they don’t promote a product. Still, quite the opposite, they discourage you from buying one. — except for Marie Kondo, of course.

They all have different approaches to applying minimalism to their life. Still, the one thing in common is that I think this is the soul of minimalism — the foundation if you like. They all embrace the living-in-the-moment concept.

5. Minimalism is all about decluttering and organising your possessions.

Decluttering and organising things is essentially actionable parts of minimalism. Leaving something behind is not quite everything about minimalism. On the other hand, living with what substantially matters to you is the main message in minimalism. So what matters to you can be different from what matters to me. For example, as a writer, I don’t need a high-end iMac desk computer. A Chromebook laptop will exactly do the same job. So I don’t see any points in having an iMac for graphic designers or gaming computers.

I’m excited about moving from a one-bedroom apartment unit in the Sydney west suburb with the size of 85 m2 into a tiny flat with 32.4 m2. The flat itself will be built by backspace living in my parent backyard in Newcastle, a city in NSW, Australia.

I should ask myself what things really matter to me. So, I define what kind of living I want in my tiny flat. Do you cook your meal more than you buy it? Do you spend more time outdoor than indoor? Do you love listening to music and watching a movie with a good Sound system?

So basically, you need to find out who and what you are, maximise your needs, and adopt your new living in a tiny house. Those are questions that define you and what really matters to you.

6. Minimalism is for lazy and poor people.

It’s not true. Many poor people, in fact, love piling up their life with unnecessary trinkets. Though they don’t necessarily spend their money buying things, they can accumulate their things from junks in their neighbourhood.

In his blog becoming minimalist, Joshua Becker clearly argues that minimalists are typical people in our community. They work, have a family, struggle to make an end. So they share the same responsibilities as everyone else. I should agree with him.

Though I don’t fit any of those moulds, I see minimalism to liberate myself from the burden of a troubled past. It helps me focus on the present time, living in the moment, and look to the current future with an open heart. I don’t see myself as lazy, nor do people who have known me.

Minimalism helped me through the impacts of the pandemic. When you lost your job while living in Sydney is at stake, minimalism is saved from being a big spender of unnecessary things to buying what really matters to you.

I found out it’s a thrilling and also challenging part of moving into a 32 metre2 tiny flat because size, in fact, does matter. It’s best to sort out what furniture and other things will practically fit in a tiny space.

But every day, you’re learning and progressing towards adding values to your life. The essential key to successfully moving and living in a tiny space is a good plan and preparation. Minimalism isn't for poor and lazy people. Contrary, it is for brave people who choose self values over consumerism and materialism.

Fumio Sasaki famously says that we do own so many things because we’re desperate to convey our own worth and value to others. We use objects to tell people how much we’re worth.

A newly converted Novocastrian & a storyteller. I story-tell travel, minimalism, mindfulness & anything in between. talesoftraveler.com

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